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Liverpool have Tottenham to thank for their Premier League title shot, while Manchester City has money and nothing else. Also in your Mailbox: Pep and Klopp job swap, Rangers, West Ham, Belgium’s golden generation and more…
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What a week for Liverpool
It’s been a huge week in terms of Liverpool’s season with an obviously massive weekend coming up.
After quite the scare against Villareal, we made it to the Final of the Champions League. At the risk of counting the proverbial chickens too early, we’re surely the favourites against Real Madrid – and much more so than we would have been against Manchester City. Madrid have been bloody lucky to get past PSG, Chelsea and now City – every time relying on their atmosphere at home to emotionally propel themselves over the line. But this won’t be the case in the Final and their fans are not going to outcheer ours in a neutral venue. At which point it comes down to quality, of which we have considerably more. You can never be too confident, especially against Benzema in this form, but you’ve got to fancy us – we really have been the best team in Europe this season.
City would have been a different proposition but now the onus is on them to pick themselves up for the League again. Normally you wouldn’t think this would be a problem, their league form is astonishing over a very long period of time. But will this time be different? The sheer emotional distress of going out the way they did will surely leave a mark. And going from fighting for the Treble to just trying to win yet another league is surely a touch demoralising. Pep will really earn his money here if he gets them up and winning again.
Liverpool’s game against Tottenham is scarcely easy but all the motivation is with us at this time. Spurs have been a touch schizophrenic as of late and it’s hard to tell if we’ll get the free-flowing goal scoring version or the leaden footed, can’t get a shot on target version. Noone is ever less than motivated against us but we don’t have to rotate anymore, our best team can play every game until the end of the season now. If Mo could get back into something like his best form, things will look very perky indeed.
Right now I see us as favourites for the FA Cup and Champions League and I’m hoping and praying that City do a Devon Loch at this point in the League.
The Quadruple is a genuine, actual real possibility and it’s pretty hard to get your head around that. But it’s a lot of fun trying.
The Spurs Vs Liverpool game on Saturday will be pivotal in both the top four race and the title race. It should be noted that there is only a title race in the first place because Spurs have taken six points off Man City this season, and now we have an opportunity to end it too. In terms of our top four chances it’s simply a must win to keep it in our own hands, and I’m supremely confident we will win the NLD.
Saturday’s game is the kind that Antonio Conte thrives on and I’m sure he’s been drilling a gameplan to beat this excellent Liverpool team, but I have some suggestions of my own. While Liverpools full backs are a positive in an attacking sense, Villarreal showed that they are defensively vulnerable. We should look to keep our wing backs high and double up on Robertson and Arnold with the wing backs plus Son and Kulusevski. Bentacur is going to be vital in beating Liverpool’s press as his press-resistance is among the best in the business owing to his supreme ball control. We should look to play out via Bentacur at every opportunity, with him looking to spray balls wide to the wing backs and wide forwards to put Liverpool’s full backs under pressure. Harry Kane must stay high in this game as our attacking needs to be direct.
Another interesting sub-plot to this game will be Kulusevski Vs Diaz. Kulu has outperformed Diaz so far despite us being mocked for “losing out” on the Diaz signing, so it’s another chance for Kulu to prove we made the right choice.
With us having already done the double over City this season, beating Liverpool is a massive opportunity for us to put a marker down for a title challenge next season and prove we can mix it with the top clubs in the division.
Man City has money and nothing else
We all laughed at PSG for yet another capitulation, but City are just the same.
Teams built quickly with money cannot win a competition where other teams built over decades of history backed with reasonable means also compete.
You also get the feeling that City, like PSG, have glaring deficiencies in their squad, despite the hundreds of millions invested, that they don’t even need addressing In order to win their league but teams like Real or Bayern don’t have those gaps, they have properly balanced squads. City play without a striker, or with Jesus (who wouldn’t make the squad at Real or Bayern), and they still rely heaps on Fernandinho. PSG play without proper defenders bar Marquinhos. These gaps don’t prevent them from winning their league.
Like PSG, City will play sexy and unstoppable football against your Portos, your Inters, your Romas and send them packing and everybody will soil themselves witnessing the “best football by the best team we’ve ever seen”.
But facing a proper prestigious European heavyweight like Real or Bayern, a properly balanced team that not only is made up of very decent players, but also wants it more and has the arrogance to believe they will win regardless, and the crumbling starts.
Premier League fans like to pretend that City are better than PSG but really what is the difference. They play in a harder league, that’s all. Apart from that, they usually win it at a canter, bar the odd season when another team dares challenge them, they have progressive managers (Pep at City, Tuchel then Poch at PSG), they have lots of community projects in their local area (all part of the sportswashing), they can spunk 100m at any old player (or even 200m in the case of PSG, but I am sure City could stretch to that too), they have glaring deficiencies in their squad that they don’t even feel the need to address (holding midfielder and striker for City, defenders for PSG).
Even the best managers in the business cannot get the team to give more than 100% when the chips are down, it’s down to the players and how much they care – and when you’ve moved somewhere purely for the money, well, you won’t care as much as Real, Bayern or Liverpool players. That is the harsh truth.
Real or Bayern players are not paid peanuts, for sure, but you can bet money wasn’t the sole motivation for signing. At City or PSG, it was.
Mix of order and chaos
In response to Dan, London’s email, unlike your assertion of Man City being an extremely ordered and organized team, LFC is actually ordered chaos. Yes, there is a system and organization behind the team’s tactic and play. But what separates LFC from Man City is the opposite of your assertion: that LFC plays each player’s individual strength and ability to contribute to the team. In doing so, each player has the freedom to what is necessary to help the team in his role and position.
When Klopp started in 2016, the system was pure chaos. High energy pressing and direct attack with quick passing. Players changing position every second or so. It was so good when it worked that teams were overwhelmed. But, opposition teams started to see the weaknesses in a continuous press and developed specific tactics to counter it, such as the low block and fast counter attacks. When a team is not longer actively attacking and defending all the time, pressing no longer works.
This is where Klopp shone as a manager and tactician: He adapted and got the team to adapt. Instead of just sticking to a high press tactic, they moved to an adaptive strategy. Press if the opposing team’s formation and tactics allow it, move to a long pass or wing attack otherwise, etc. There appeared to be an ordered system now.
However, within that ordered structure, chaos still exists. TAA plays on the right. Suddenly, on the next transition, he is pushing the ball up on the left and Robertson is running rings around defenders on the left. Mane plays on the right but suddenly pops up in the middle to head the ball in or receive it outside the box. Salah plays right but joins Firmino in the middle, dragging defenders with him and freeing up TAA and Henderson to run with the ball on the right. Players move out of their position and confusing opposition defenders. “Do I follow or continue marking him or do I stay in my assigned zone?”.
The best example of Klopp expecting his players to play to their individual strengths but for the team would be back in Dec against Wolves. Before subbing him in, Klopp told Divock Origi to “Do not play as a striker but to play as Divock.” before getting his winning goal.
Come end May, it will be a very tense battle between 2 teams that can swing between ordered structure and chaos. Me, I’m salivating in anticipation of revenge for 2018.
DJ, Singapore (Imagine if Pep had bought Origi for 20 million instead of Grealish for 100 million……)
Pep and Klopp job swap
Imagine a parallel world in which pep guardiola and Jürgen klopp didn’t become managers for the teams they have now.
Instead guardiola became Liverpool manager and klopp became city manager. Same time periods.
Would guardiola have delivered the title which Liverpool craved after 30 years?
Would klopp have delivered the champions League that city crave?
I think it’s arguable that klipperty klopp would have delivered at least one champions league by now coming into a city team which had company, sterling, aguero, David Silva, and de bruyne, as it’s stars and a very good cast of players in general, not too mention an infinite cheque book. I can’t see klopp collapsing against Madrid, making the same mistake against Lyon or losing that final to Chelsea…not with that squad.
On the flip side I’m not sure I can argue that guardiola would have achieved the same at Liverpool. He wouldn’t have inherited such a good squad like at city. Shaky at the back, poor keeper and only firmino up front that could be described as a player pep might want to build a forward line around. At liverpool pep would have to build a squad, something he hasn’t really done before. Doesn’t mean he couldn’t, it means we don’t know. Would he still sign mane, Salah, Allison and van dyke? Maybe because it’s well known Liverpool backroom team has a large input. Strangely I imagine pep might actually have done better in Europe with liverpool since our strange affinity with the competition means there’s always belief we can do well In it.
But in the league? Where Pep would not only have to build a squad he’d have to fill it with belief. Something he’s failed to do at city in the champs league so far. Pep is a great manager but so far he has not achieved anything that those players hadn’t done already. He didn’t need to give them belief they could win the league, they’d already done it, twice. But even that’s a challenge in itself. Big Al fergie left a squad of players who’d won all trophies before and no manager since has been able to give them much belief except Jose…for one season.
To be clear this isn’t a whose better klopp or pep? email. I’ll say it again pep is a great manager. I just think it’s an interesting game to swap him and klopp and speculate as to how it would go.
Who would do better if we travelled back in time and swapped manager? Hose trophy cabinet would be more full? Klopp at city or pep at Liverpool?
Some Champions League data (FUN!)
Yet again, the Champions League delivers as a spectacle – yet the stakes are hugely lowered by the knowledge that City will be among the favourites next year. And the year after that.
I spent a bit of time on Wikipedia cos life isn’t that short. Here’s some choice data. It merely confirms what everyone knows but still makes for quite sobering reading – if you’re a fan of things like competition and jeopardy.
Between 1992 – 2002, 43 different clubs from 19 nations reached the Champions League Quarter Finals (*1992 is the final European Cup)
– Clubs from 13 different nations reached a semifinal
– There were nine different winners of the tournament
– Real Madrid were the only team to win it more than once (1998 / 2000)
Between 2012 – 2022, 29 different clubs from 9 nations reached the Champions League Quarter Finals
– Two nations (Cyprus and Turkey) appeared only once (2012 / 2014)
– Holland (Ajax) are the only nation outside the Big Five to have reached a semifinal – again, once
– Of the five different winners over the past decade, Liverpool are the only team NOT to have won more than one CL in this period (for now)
People can scream ‘cyclical’ all they want – just because it has been in the past doesn’t mean it will continue to be so. I see a handful of superclubs from five nations playing pass the trophy every season. And that five is generous: plucky underdogs Bayern Munich are the only club not from Spain or the UK to have won the CL since Inter in 2010.
Football has become fast food – occasionally tasty when you’re in the mood but deeply unhealthy and with the potential to make you feel quite nauseous. (PSG vs City Final next year, anyone?)
Max CPFC (off to find another cloud to shout at)
Paul McDevitt asks ‘Why do City have two players to take a corner?’
Ask yourself this, how many defenders come out to mark the solitary corner taker? None right?
Now, add an extra attacker to the set piece.
The defending team should as a result have to send out 2 players from the box to counter any short corner routine.
2 defenders away from the box = more space to attack.
That’s my view anyway…
Chris (tactical quirks always fascinate me) R
Three points to make as an LFC fan. Firstly the thought that City might bring in a Champions League coach alongside Pep is laughable- by all means though City fans, do wish for that and good luck watching your greatest ever manager leave. Secondly, Let’s not all rush to condemn De Bruyne and Pep- they’re both world class and madness can happen in any sport. You can dress it up any way you want but it’s mad how often people blame the greats during times of strife. Thirdly I think all the stuff about Foden or DeBruyne was supposed to be a joke (on a them of Raheem Sterling) so don’t take that seriously guys. You’ve been killing us all for years now and we’re just having a bit of fun- it’ll probably bite in the arse very soon!
Not so friendly rivalry
Whoever labelled the Liverpool-ManC rivalry as a friendly rivalry, lacking fire etc. should read Mark’s mail, damn is he annoyed at Liverpool fans for lacking grace.I didn’t read the previous mailbox so not commenting on whether Mark has some valid observations or not but It’s actually refreshing to see a ManC fan hating us/parts of the Liverpool base.
But quick replies to our dear friend Mark-
– Nobody wants Pep to leave (We love the rivalry, so does the PL)
– Always advocated the point that this ManC side is slightly better than our lot
– Wanted Madrid in the final from a Liverpool POV because ManC would have made us nervous, having said that there’s some joo-joo stuff happening with this Madrid side. The final luckily isn’t at the Bernabeu
– Having said all that; Slice it anyway, this ManC side shi**ing the bed in this fashion was hilarious if you’re not a ManC fan
Nobody cut us any slack when we messed up in the Europa league final and the CL final against Villarreal and Madrid respectively. Nor will they spare us if we end up with just the Mickey mouse cup. That’s how the game and the fans are, Mark.
Mihir. Mumbai. LFC
Can someone explain to Mark (Some Liverpool supporters might want to look up the definition of Karma) MCFC the basic concept of a footballing rivalry? He seems unable to grasp the concept, instead clutching his pearls at the apparent lack of grace & decorum shown to his club in the F365 mailbox. If he feels that LFC supporters writing in here have gone too far, he should absolutely stay away from twitter, I’m not sure his delicate sensibilities could handle it.
For any supporter of a “big” club (i.e. one that was in living memory or is now at the top of the pile), rival supporters getting their digs in, giving eulogies for their managers & players, and predicting impending doom when they slip up is a familiar sight, it’s part of the discourse. United supporters have been taking their beatings for the better part of a decade, just as Liverpool supporters did for the decade-plus before that.
The fact that Mark is so shocked and appalled by this is honestly baffling. When you move up the ladder the way City did (artificially creating a mega-club by pumping in billions of petro-dollars) you are painting a target on your own back, that’s just how it is. Maybe for a club that has only been relevant at the top of the football pyramid for a decade, some City supporters just aren’t used to having actual rivals, who are more than happy to see them fail & celebrate their misfortune?
Figs (in fairness, everyone should stay away from twitter) LFC, Dublin
Congrats to Rangers
It won’t get the hype or column inches of the Champions League matches (understandably) but last night was a fantastic game and an incredible result for Rangers and for Scottish football.
Rangers have now eliminated the 2nd and 5th best team in Germany and the 4th best team in Portugal. Not bad for the runners up in a “farmers league”. It’s been an absolutely phenomenal run, beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. Coming from Aberdeen, by all rights I should hate to see Rangers do well, but this is a very likeable team and I was rooting.for them last night.
The most impressive thing about this Rangers team is the way they have progressed through the competition. Often when an underdog punches above their weight, it’s done through organisation and grinding out 1-0 wins. Such was the case the last time Rangers made a European final, in 2008. They only scored 5 goals across 8 knockout ties, but still made the UEFA cup final.
Not so with this side. They have scored 16 goals across their 8 ties and are genuinely exciting to watch. Their top scorer (and now the top scorer in the competition) is their right back, James Tavernier, illustrating how ambitious they can be. They are not afraid to have a go, as shown when they went 4-0 up against a shell-shocked Dortmund side.
The final should be an even contest, and a very good Frankfurt side will probably be favourites. But Rangers will believe they have a great chance against the side who are 11th in the Bundesliga, given their success against German opposition so far.
It’s great to see a mini-resurgence from Scottish teams in Europe. It’s also helped move Scotland up the coefficient rankings. Given Russia’s ban from UEFA tournaments, Celtic should go straight into the Champions League group stage next year as Scottish Premiership champions. If Rangers do win the Europa league, that would mean 2 Scottish teams in the group stage for the first time in about 15 years.
Also have to finish by saying full credit to the Rangers fans. The atmosphere in the ground last needed was absolutely incredible. Ally McCoist was arguing it was as good as you would see anywhere in world football, and while he’s clearly biased, it’s also hard to disagree with him. The place was absolutely electric and clearly helped Rangers turn the tie around.
So good luck to Rangers in 12 days time. Hopefully they can become the first Scottish side to win a European trophy since Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen 39 years ago.
Mike, LFC, London
What’s heroic about West Ham’s run really?
Why in the aftermath of West Ham’s defeat against your Eintracht Frankfurts are people talking about a ‘historic journey’ of seeming underdogs, its really grinding us gears.
It seems as if the proximity to a ludicrously underpar relegation threatened season two years ago makes this europe league semi a miraculous achievement. It doesn’t. It just shows how poor they have been despite the outlay, and now they’re finally getting a tune out of em.
They are the 12th biggest net spenders in Europe since 2012/13, a bigger net spend than ur Bayerns and ur Liverpools, a 7th/8th premier league finish and european ressies league semi-final is arguably good, but more than arguably (I’d say), PAR at best.
I was surprised to see James, LFC, Milan having such warm words for West Ham following their European exit last night. For those who are unaware, last night David Moyes kicked a ball at a ball girls head late on with zero provocation, before laughing it off in the post-match interview. Meanwhile Declan Rice went beyond the usual post-match disappointment by disrespectfully claiming that “There’s no way they [Frankfurt] are better than Sevilla or Lyon…” and accusing the referee (who had a solid game with no real mistakes) of being bias towards Frankfurt. A reminder here that Frankfurt beat them home and away.
Chuck in the incident last week of West Ham fans attacking German commentators at the London stadium and this tie has been a very poor reflection of the club. It does leave me wondering why West Ham hold so much goodwill across neutrals lately; could you imagine the reaction had Man City committed just one of those actions during their own semi-final exit? The mailbox would have broken under the weight of condemnation. Does an increasing trend of poor behaviour off the pitch really outweigh excellent performances on it?
This century there’s been a trend whereby West Ham would always follow a strong season with a very poor one, whereby the board down to the playing staff all assumed they were now a top club and abandoned the hard work and principles that led them to those strong performances. They seemed to break that cycle this year by picking up exactly where they left off in 2021, it’ll be interesting to see if they can maintain their European form for a third season given the lapses in discipline they’re beginning to show.
Kevin (obligatory mention of the Zouma situation and the club failing to effectively sanction him), Nottingham
There’s something about a sports results that shows thing’s aren’t going a teams way. It can be a team you love, or neutral, but most fans can tell. The Man City v Real Madrid one for example. Real had no business being in that tie. It finished 4-3, it about have been 6-2. That’s how much outplayed Real we’re. Yet the scoreline was so close I adjusted my vision of the contest. Going into the 90th , I’m thinking, I was wrong, Real are out, Man City have pulled it off. Only to the be proven right ight in the next 35 minutes.There’s something about football, last minute winners, a team getting bossed for 180 minutes and then winning it at the death, it’s unbelievable, it’s exhilarating, it’s why we love it.
Dave(Man City really should have had this wrapped by the first leg), Somewhere
Belgium golden generation
Reading your article on XI players destined never to win the champions league something occurred to me.
Of the current, (now aging), golden generation of Belgium players that includes De Bruyne, Hazard, Courtois, Witsel, Lukaku, Mertens, Vertonghen, Carrasco, Alderweireld, the only one to win the champions league (at the moment) is, erm Divok Origi.
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